A translucent pink bubble punctured by a tube of clear red glass, a multicolored primordial glass form, a sinuous two-foot-long purple tube of flocked glass ending in a bulb that looks strangely sensual -- these are just three of the approximately 60 works that will be on display in the exhibition Marvin Lipofsky: A Glass Odyssey, at the Oakland Museum of California from July 19 to Oct. 12, 2003. This retrospective exhibition spans the 40-year career of Berkeley artist Marvin Lipofsky, founder of the California studio glass movement and one of the world's best-known glass artists.
The early works in the exhibition are simple bubble and bottle forms. In the 1970s, Lipofsky began working with subjects from popular culture, evidenced in the humorous "Great American Food Series," where pickles and hamburgers were fashioned of glass. In the "California Loop Series," Lipofsky created sensuous forms with flocking and plated glass surfaces. The pieces for which he is best known today are the three-dimensional globe-shaped forms he has made in many variations at glass factories the world over. These sculptural forms are most often semi-opaque on the outside, inviting the viewer to explore their inner dimensions.
Studio glass, or glass sculpture, was made in Czechoslovakian factories as early as the 1950s. It was pioneered in the United States in the early 1960s by artist Harvey Littleton, one of Lipofsky's teachers when he was a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Lipofsky received a Master of Science degree in 1963 and an M.F.A. in sculpture in 1964 from the University of Wisconsin.
After graduation Lipofsky joined the faculty of UC Berkeley, where he established the second studio glass program in the country. In 1967 he founded the glass program at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland. The work of Lipofsky and his students during the 1960s and '70s made the San Francisco Bay Area one of the centers of the early studio glass movement. "Cutting-edge talent," said Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown recently, "that was Lipofsky's gift to the world."
In 1970, Lipofsky began a global odyssey that would take him abroad on more than 50 journeys -- from Italy, Sweden and Poland to Taiwan and China. He was one of the first glass artists to travel to Czechoslovakia, a famed glass center to which he has returned a number of times during his career. He has worked with local artisans and materials in factory settings around the world to produce blown glass for his artworks. The resulting pieces were shipped back to his Berkeley studio for cold working -- sawing, grinding, sandblasting and polishing.
The exhibition includes large photographs of Lipofsky working with glass artists in workshops, studios and factories throughout the world. A video of the process of finishing glass in his Berkeley studio brings Lipofsky and the glassmaking process to life in the gallery space. Also included are works on paper, working drawings and tools revealing the artist's creative process.
As a teacher, Lipofsky has trained a generation of artists who currently staff studio glass programs and operate glass studios throughout the country. He was a founder of the Glass Art Society, and has been editor of its journal. He has had more than 40 solo exhibitions and has been included in hundreds of group shows. He twice received NEA Fellowships and has been selected as an American Crafts Council Fellow and as a Living Treasure of California by the Crocker Art Museum.
His work appears in more than 80 museum and corporate collections and in numerous private collections. Museums that own works by Lipofsky include, in addition to the Oakland Museum of California, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum Boymans-Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Holland; Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania; Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art, Sapporo, Japan; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California; and the Renwick Gallery of the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
The exhibition is curated by Suzanne Baizerman, curator of decorative arts at the Oakland Museum of California.
Marvin Lipofsky: A Glass Odyssey is accompanied by a catalog of the same name, edited by exhibition curator Suzanne Baizerman, published by the Oakland Museum of California and distributed by the University of Washington Press (2003).
The exhibition is sponsored by the Oakland Museum Women's Board, with additional support provided by the Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass and individual patrons.
Suomi Series, 1970
11 x 19 x13”
Collection of Robert L. Pfannebecker
Photo: M. Lee Fatherree